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Asadah Kirkland Presents Inaugural "Soulful Chicago Book Fair" July 16!

This month’s Soulful Chicago Book Fair promises to be a gathering of the griots. The fair, founded by Asadah Kirkland, will present a counter-narrative to Chicago’s violent reputation that’s perpetuated by the media, and it’ll do so in Woodlawn, a neighborhood known for high crime.

“I had somebody from the city tell me, ‘You’re doing it in the most gang-infested area!’ I was like, ‘So, they do their laundry and blow their noses just like I do,” Kirkland said. “If they want to focus on destruction, then we have to present something that creates something.”

A Harlem native and proud Chicago transplant, Kirkland published Beating Black Kids in 2009, which led to appearances on news outlets like CNN, Al-Jazeera America and Essence. Kirkland said the idea of a book fair came from having experienced the Harlem Book Fair as an author, and wondering why there wasn’t one in Chicago. “When I looked at the dynamic of what New York has for authors, I really couldn’t believe that Chicago didn’t have one,” she said. “That was sort of the, ‘OK. I’m not going to ask someone to create it. I’m going to create it from an author standpoint.’

“I find that Chicago as a city is a city of arts. A lot of credence and support is given to visual arts, as well as movement and dance, but I don’t really see a lot for literary arts,” Kirkland said. “So I’ll take that over. I’ll take that challenge.” The fair will showcase over 100 black authors and span six city blocks. Kirkland said she only expected Chicagoan authors to submit their books, but quickly started fielding inquires from across the country including New York, D.C. and Texas.

The event will begin with a processional with youth drummers leading a float of 15-20 community elders to the main stage near King Drive to honor the centennial anniversary of the Great Migration. Workshops will have everything an author needs. An awards ceremony will honor new authors and youth can enter the Timuel D. Black Chicago History Essay contest.

The entertainment options also span genres, but will still highlight incredible writers. Grammy-nominated singer and producer Eric Roberson will perform along with a stage adaptation of Dr. Charles Johnson’s book Middle Passage. The Soulful Chicago Book Fair is on Saturday, July 16, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., on 61st Street, between Cottage Grove and King Drive. - Princess McDowell

Keywords: Black authors, Book Fair, books, Chicago, Woodlawn

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